'Lockdown was inevitable' says Cumbria health official

  • Video report by Ralph Blunsom

Cumbria's Director of Public Health says tougher restrictions for England and Scotland were inevitable given rising infections. 

Last night, the Prime Minister announced England would be joining Scotland in a country wide lockdown, meaning everyone should stay at home except for essential reasons. Colin Cox says the tier system couldn't cope with the new strain of COVID-19.

"I've long thought that a further national lockdown was pretty much inevitable given the way the rates in the country are going. The tiering system has been really struggling to get to grips with this. It wasn't working and now we've moved so much of the country into Tier 4."

Hospitals in North Cumbria are also near capacity. They've moved into Opel (operational pressures escalation level) alert Level 4  - and health officials say the pressure on services is so great they can no longer guarantee 'comprehensive care' for patients. Carlisle now has a rate of more than 1000 cases per 100,000 people. In Eden, it's more than 720 and in Allerdale it is 537. There are 424 cases per 100,000 people per week in Barrow and 397 in Copeland. The lowest rate of infection is in the South Lakes with 299.

As a result, Colin Cox says this means that hospitals are having to ask other areas for support.

From today across both Scotland and England, people have been ordered to stay at home unless they are shopping for essentials, cannot work from home, are escaping domestic violence or are exercising.

Unlike the lockdown which was introduced in March support bubbles can continue and two people from two different households can meet outdoors, so long as social distancing is maintained.

In a bleak statement, Prime Minister Johnson said the new variant of coronavirus, which is up to 70% more transmissible, was spreading in a “frustrating and alarming” manner and warned that the number of Covid-19 patients in English hospitals is 40% higher than the first peak.

“The weeks ahead will be the hardest yet but I really do believe that we’re entering the last phase of the struggle, because with every jab that goes into our arms we’re tilting the odds against Covid and in favour of the British people,” the prime minister said.

Scotland’s First Minister Ms Sturgeon announced a legally enforceable stay-at-home order for all of January in mainland Scotland and Skye.

She told MSPs: “It is no exaggeration to say that I am more concerned about the situation we face now than I have been at any time since March last year.”

In a statement this evening, the PM laid out the most recent statistics for England.

An estimated 1 in 50 people in private households in England had Covid-19 between December 27 and January 2, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This means more than 1,000,000 people in England are infected with coronavirus - which is equivalent to more than 2% of the population.

It represents a rise from 800,900 people, or one in 70, who were estimated to have Covid-19 in the period December 17 to 23.

The figures do not include people staying in hospitals, care homes or other institutional settings.

The figures from the ONS came as the UK recorded 60,916 lab-confirmed coronavirus cases as of 9am on Tuesday – the highest daily total reported so far since the pandemic began.